Tonight I remembered why I fell in love with flying. The skies were beautiful with the sun setting on the horizon, breathtakingly peaceful. I’m controlling an airplane at 3,000’ and below, practicing maneuvers I haven’t done in ages. It feels good again. I’m remembering and performing each task asked of me. I look around at the beautiful terrain beneath me and smile. I’m back indeed!
I walked out to the ramp to begin my preflight on the Champ. I reached up to run my hand along the wing, and it gave under the light touch of my fingers. I sucked in my breath and exclaimed, “It’s fabric!” I admired it and was in awe of the feel of it. My face must have shown my amazement, as my instructor laughed at me with my first encounter with a truly original style fabric covered plane.
It’s an Aeronca Champ built in 1945.
Grabbing my flight bag from the truck; I slung it over my shoulder and closed the door. Turning I stopped and looked at the FBO, took a depth breath and smiled. I’m back; after two years away, I’m finally back to train again.
The Atlanta Warbirds Weekend 2016, and I had planned on spending it photographing the wonderful warbirds that would be on display again this year for the Commemorative Air Force, Dixie Wing in Atlanta, Georgia. I had planned this trip for months. I would be doing the aviation photography workshop for the second time. What I didn’t know was that I would be hearing from the FAA the day I was leaving for Atlanta.
What I had hoped to be a simple process of getting cleared to fly again, has met another speed bump on this road called life. After being declared cancer free by my oncologist, the FAA wasn’t completely convinced, and wanted an MRI of my brain since it was the only part of me that hadn’t been scanned.
I can say with some certainty that I understand how a broken winged bird must feel. Once you’ve tasted flight, felt the wind in your wings, looked down on Earth from a clouds view, how could you live a life grounded for the rest of your days?
Some days it’s enough to just look up at the sky and watch planes fly over, but other days, the pull of something more exciting calls me by name and beckons for me to come. It’s an airplane with my name on it that longs to be flown as much as I long to be in the air with it. There’s something wonderful that happens every time I set foot into my home airport, it’s a place where I feel completely comfortable and at ease. I look out at the runway and take a deep breath; breathe it all in, and exhale like it’s freedom. It is. It’s freedom and excitement like I’ve never known. It stirs in me like rushing waves that calm and soothe on one hand, but it’s also like a fire that burns and warms me from the inside out on the other hand.
One thing about diving into flying without any preconceived ideas, is that I really had no idea what to expect when I started this adventure. I didn’t choose to talk to anyone about what the experience would be like or what I should expect. On one hand that has been great because I just sort of rolled with the flow of things, but on the other hand, I didn’t expect it to be as difficult and time consuming as I have come to realize it is.
Today I want to celebrate with my dear friend and fellow student pilot Ashley. She had her first solo flight today and I couldn’t be more excited for her! We have shared many days of excitement, disappointment and frustration together. Her solo feels like it’s as much mine as it is hers, although I in no way want to take away from her day, I am truly overjoyed for her.
Have you ever wanted something so badly that it consumes every waking moment? It might even consume your dreams as it has mine. I want to solo so badly I can taste it. Brent Owens says it perfectly on his blog http://iflyblog.com/2014/04/04/solo-flow/ , that “…it’s one of the few things that drives you to a single focus.” This has been in the back of my mind since I found his blog right after I started flying lessons.